The Truth Behind the Ticking Time Bomb of NL West Rivalries
The NL West has become more of a fight club than a division in MLB this season. The bitter rivalries between these teams have been erupting into brawls almost on a nightly basis.
Jesus Guzman of the San Diego Padres sparked yet another bench-clearing brawl on Wednesday against his former team, the San Francisco Giants. This is already the third time teams from the NL West have gotten into serious fights.
The NL West has become extremely volatile, and that could affect MLB as a whole.
Let's take a look at the three biggest feuds of the NL West and what it all means for the baseball world.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres (April 11, 2013)
Less than two weeks into the 2013 season, we saw a fracas break out between the Dodgers and Padres.
After Zack Greinke plunked Carlos Quentin, the two teams got into it, led by Quentin's charge right at Greinke.
Quentin started walking toward Greinke, who appeared to say something before Quentin dropped the bat and sprinted at Greinke, ending with the two lowering their shoulders and smashing into each other.
After wrestling the Dodgers' starting pitcher to the ground, Quentin was mobbed, and both teams got into a huge pile on the infield.
The biggest consequences of the fight did not come from MLB, but instead from the medical staff. Greinke broke his collarbone and didn't pitch for over a month.
This was just the beginning of the bad blood in the NL West, but it sure left its mark.
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (June 11, 2013)
Exactly two months after the first brawl, Greinke took the mound again, this time against the Diamondbacks. However, he was not at fault in this case.
Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy started the fiasco, drilling Dodgers superstar rookie Yasiel Puig in the face.
Greinke and the Dodgers couldn't take this abuse lying down, so Greinke plunked Miguel Montero on the back as expected, and both teams left their dugouts.
Nothing happened at first. The two teams cleared the benches and jawed at each other, but the night was far from over.
When Greinke came to the plate in the next inning, Kennedy decided that he wasn't done. He hit Greinke with another high pitch.
The two benches cleared again, and this time there was more than just talk.
Puig was one of the players in the center of the scrum, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
The Diamondbacks were still talking about Puig’s actions Wednesday, saying that the Dodgers were shouting at him, “No! Not you!” as he kept charging back into the melee.
Nine games into his career, Puig is already that valuable. The Dodgers were fearful of losing him to an ejection (which happened) and a suspension (which almost certainly will follow).
Puig, though, was in a rage.
Kennedy had hit him the previous inning, grazing his nose with a 92-mph fastball. According to several Diamondbacks, Puig kept shouting, “Yo soy Cubano! — “I am a Cuban!” — as he drifted in and out of the fight, at one point landing a haymaker on the back of Eric Hinske’s head.
Puig wasn't the only one who got heated during the fracas. Even the managers were involved. It took MLB three days to finally dish out punishments, headlined by Kennedy's 10-game suspension.
The fallout of this brawl can still be felt today, and it remains the biggest of the year.
San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants (June 19, 2013)
The suspensions from the brawl between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers were still in effect when the latest chapter in the NL West's bloody 2013 campaign was written.
On Tuesday night, Jesus Guzman belted a go-ahead two-run home run in the eighth inning against his former team and showed them up by yelling to his bench.
The Giants weren't pleased.
On Wednesday afternoon, the team sought revenge. Madison Bumgarner threw inside against Guzman, sparking a rage in the Venezuelan outfielder.
Guzman was quickly held back by catcher Buster Posey and home plate umpire Tony Randazzo, but the usually calm Bumgarner had a few things to say to Guzman himself.
Should Jesus Guzman or Madison Bumgarner be suspended?
As the two got closer and closer, more people stepped in front of them until the benches eventually cleared. Both teams got into it, pushing and shoving each other, although no serious fights broke out.
Guzman would get his revenge, hitting a home run off of Bumgarner in the seventh inning, but the Giants came away with the 4-2 victory.
Luckily, Wednesday was the final game of the series between the two. But this rivalry might not have died with the series, and we will see how it plays out when the two meet again July 11-14.
What This Means
With the latest incident in the NL West coming just over a week after the biggest brawl of the season, everyone in MLB will be paying extra attention to these divisional matchups.
The teams in the NL West have shown repeatedly that they don't like each other, and they're not afraid to get into it.
The first change that we will likely see going forward is from the umpires.
Whenever these teams meet again or play against divisional foes, they will probably be on short leashes. The umpires and MLB as a whole want this nonsense to stop before someone else gets hurt, and umps will likely be told to be very strict with their in-game punishments.
Expect to see any hit batters leading to ejections in rematches from these series.
Secondly, we know that the fighting isn't over.
As much as MLB may do to stop these teams from settling things with their fists, there is no way to truly combat it. There is too much bad blood between the five teams in the division, and the current players on the rosters have their own personal vendettas.
We could still see another brawl before the All-Star Break, and I wouldn't be surprised to see these incidents carry over into the second half of the season.
Finally, we have to watch if the office of Bud Selig steps in.
Obviously the league doesn't want to see fighting because it can lead to injuries (i.e. Zack Greinke's broken collarbone). However, there is a difference between having secret conversations with umps to try to stop it and publicly stepping in.
The biggest offenders in these brawls (and the other incidents from the season that are not listed) will be given severe punishments if it keeps happening.
If Carlos Quentin keeps fighting Dodgers, expect to see him sidelined for up to a month.
If Kennedy pitches against the Dodgers and hits a batter or two and sparks a fight, expect at least a 20-game suspension.
If Guzman and the Giants can't get over keeping him in the minors until he signed with the Padres, then both sides will be in hot water.
As the summer wears on, the heat will rise and so will tempers, and that could lead to a bloody campaign for the NL West in the rest of the 2013 season.
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